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I H'^' 

Bob Duncan 
Executive Director 

This job takes me across Vir- 
ginia on a regular basis. 
During my travels I am reminded 
again and again of the impor- 
tance of private landowners to 
our mission. Approximately 87% 
of the entire land base in the 
state- — close to 23 million 
acres — is held in private owner- 
ship, and many of our wildest 
fauna live on these lands. 

Private landowners have been 
crucial to the success of many Department 
initiatives since our earliest days, of course. 
From deer management to wetlands restora- 
tion (featured inside), sportsmen and other 
wildlife supporters have stepped up to assist 
us in our efforts. Your cooperation has meant 
that we now have one of the strongest herds 
of whitetails this side of the Mississippi. Your 
willingness to apply research on warm season 
grasses has provided much-needed habitat to 
upland birds and other wild animals that rely 
upon their cover to survive. Partnering with 
others, you have helped the state reclaim 
sv^;aths of marshland and important buffers 
along our waterways, feeding and sheltering 
migrating birds and ducks, fish, and many 
other species that use such travel corridors. 
As you well know, these are the nursery 
grounds and therefore the future of water- 
fowl hunting in the state. 

The beneficiaries of your stewardship ac- 
tions include the top three game species in 
Virginia: deer, turkey, and bear. Success can 
be measured in a number of ways, but those 
who are watching will applaud the robust 
hunting seasons of the past five years. The 
year 2008, in fact, was our strongest harvest 
ever for whitetails; 94% of them were taken 
on private property. Similar experience holds 
for turkey and black bear, where roughly 94% 

of the fall turkey harvest and 
57% of the annual bear harvest 
occurred on private land. 

Citizens have played a key role 
in stewarding our nongame 
species as well. I think about the 
number of bald eagle nests lo- 
cated on private property, along 
rivers and other waterfront 
perches. A number of threat- 
ened species — the red-cockad- 
ed woodpecker, for example — 
would not be in Virginia today without the 
protection afforded their colonies, which 
exist almost solely on private lands. You are 
the reason it has survived here. 

Just as basic as this custodial role is the 
link that you serve to the continued viability 
of hunting. We know from research that the 
first hunting experience often occurs on pri- 
vate land. Through the mentoring by sea- 
soned hunters to their children and grand- 
children, to neighbors and to friends, many a 
young hunter has been introduced to the 
sport, and that behavior carries forward to 
the next generation. Tee Clarksons feature 
(p. 12) reminds us of the familiar refrain: 
Hunters are made, not born. Access to hunt- 
ing has always been made possible through 
the generosity of landowners willing to share 
their resource base, their experience, their 
patience, and their skills afield. And hunting 
can only continue if this continues. 

So, it is with deep respect and apprecia- 
tion that I extend this tribute to all private 
landowners who have played a role in the 
health of game and nongame species, who 
have provided access to the land and rolled up 
their sleeves doing the hard work of habitat 
restoration, and who have kept our rich tradi- 
tion of hunting very much alive in Virginia. 
Thank you. 

Mission Statement 

To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth: 
To provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard 
the rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safety for persons 
and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an 
awareness of and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to ttie Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources 


Commonwealth of Virginia 
Bob McDonnell, Governor 



Subsidized this publication 

Secretary of Natural Resources 

Douglas W. Domenech 

Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries 

Bob Duncan 
Executive Director 

Members of the Board 

Ward Burton, Halifax 
Brent Clarke, Fairfax 
Sherry Smith Crumley, Buchanan 
William T. Greer, Jr., Norfolk 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
John W. Montgomery, Jr., Sandston 
Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington 
Richard E. Railey, Courtland 
F. Scott Reed, Jr., Manakin-Sabot 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 

Magazine Staff 

Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon, 

Contributing Editors 
Emily Pels, Art Director 
Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 
Jaime Sajecki, Staff Contributor 

Color separations and printing by 
Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published 
monthly by the Virginia Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries. Send all subscription orders and 
address changes to Virginia WiUllife, P. O. Box 7477, 
Red Oak, Iowa 51591-0477. Address all other com- 
munications concerning this publication to Wr^iiii'iJ 
WiMlifc, P. O. Box 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, 
Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. Subscription rates 
are $12.95 for one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 
per each back issue, subject to availabilit)'. Out-of- 
country rate is $24.95 for one year and must be paid 
in U.S. funds. No refunds for amounts less than 
$5.00. To subscribe, call toll-free (800) 710-9369. 
POSTMASTER: Please send all address changes to 
Virginia Wildlife, P.O. Box 7477, Red Oak, Iowa 
51591-0477. Postage for periodicals paid at 
Richmond, Virginia and additional entry offices. 

Copyright 2010 by the Virginia Department of 
Game and Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall 
afford to all persons an equal access to Department 
programs and facilities without regard to race, 
color, religion, national origin, disability, sex, or 
age. If you believe that you have been discriminat- 
ed against in any program, activity or facility, 
please write to; Virginia Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries, ATTN; Compliance Officer, (4010 
West Broad Street.) P O. Box 11104, Richmond, 
Virginia 23230-1104. 

"This publication is intended for general informa- 
tional purposes only and every effort has been 
made to ensure its accuracy. The information con- 
tained herein does not serve as a legal representa- 
tion of fish and wildlife laws or regulations. The 
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 
does not assume responsibility for any change in 
dates, regulations, or information that may occur 
after publication." 

About the cover: 
Of the three bear species in 
North America, only black bears 
(Ursiis americanus) live in Vir- 
ginia. They are shy and secretive, 
and incredibly adaptable to a 
world of extremes. Learn how 
one community is taking the 
lead in learning how to coexist 
with these intelligent mammals 
(p. 28). ©Bill Lea 

Highland County's 
Wild Treasures 

by Ken Perrotte 
The Puffenbargers have built a fine 
reputation among hunters and other 
farm visitors. 

The Restoration of 
^ a Grand River 

by Beth Hester 
Bringing back wetlands along the 
Southern Branch of the Elizabeth 


A Family Affair 


Magazine ■ 

For subscriptions, 

circulation problems 

and address changes 



12 issues for $12.95 
24 issues for $23.95 

Rabbit hunting and life lessons go hand 
in hand. 

March of the Salamanders 

by Suzanne Ramsey 
Students document the breeding habits of an 
amphibian, by night. 

Poor Man's Tarpon 

by Marc N. McGlade 
Come, celebrate the late winter migration 
of shad through our tidal rivers. 

j_ Joe and His Muskies 

by Bruce Ingram 
Fisheries biologist Joe Williams reminds us 
that sometimes quality trumps quantity. 

Virginia's First Bear Smart 

by Jaime L. Sajecki 
Wintergreen residents share their bear story. 

Off the Leash 
Dining In 
Photo Tips 





(OKen Perrotte 


Morning's light struggled to 
penetrate the fog shroud- 
ing the mountainside hol- 
lows above Dianne and Mike Puffen- 
barger's Highland County farm. 
Heavy dew dripped steadily from 
the trees. 

Five deer, one a buck sprouting 
thick new antler bases, emerged like 
apparitions through the mist. They 
carefully picked their way along a 
hillside trail, unaware of the humans 
sitting motionless just 40 yards away. 
Thick fog can be both blessing and 
curse to turkey hunters. 

Highland Coil 

For hunters hearing, or inducing, 
a gobble from a roosted tom turkey, it 
means an excellent opportunity to 
stealthily slip in close to the bird. A 
well executed hen call either just be- 
fore or after the gobbler flies to the 
ground often entices him within 
shotgun range. Heavy air, though, 
often means birds don't do too much 
talking from their roost. 

The fog refused to lift and after 
nearly two hours of sitting quietly 
and making a variety of yelps, clucks, 
and cuts with assorted turkey calls, 
Puffenbarger and his daughter. 

Sarah, pulled down their face masks 
and stood. 

Sarah, age 20, adjusted her long, 
camouflaged skirt and helped her fa- 
ther tuck his gear into the back of his 
turkey hunting vest. Skirts and dress- 
es aren't considered traditional 
turkey hunting garb for most young 
ladies, but for the Puffenbarger girls 
the attire comes with belonging to the 
Beachy Mennonite Order. 

"Let's go get a snack," Puffen- 
barger said. 

A "snack" with Maple Tree Out- 
doors, Puffenbarger 's name for his 


©Bill Lea 

nty's WM Treasures 

guiding business, typically includes 
something with maple symp in it. 
Dianne Puffenbarger's family has 
been making maple syrup for gen- 
erations. Her mother was among 
the first organizers of the Highland 
Maple Festival, now in its 52nd 

Maple syrup manufacturing is 
typically seen as a northern climate 
affair. Mike Puffenbarger said his 

Mike Puffenbarger and daughter Sarah 
pause while quietly maneuvering 
across a forested hillside above their 
family farm. 

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endy in/March'. See/ www.highlarui/ formxyre/ 

research shows their maple sugaring 
operation is the farthest south in 
North America; hence the name 
Southernmost Maple. 

Besides being a guide, maple 
syrup manufacturer, caterer, and 
seeming all-round entrepreneur, 
Puffenbarger is also pastor of the Set 
Free Mennonite Church in Bolar. The 
spacious dining building on the fami- 
ly's Southernmost Maple farm is a 
customary meeting area for the con- 

The 400-acre farm, about a 30- 
minute drive north of Lake Moomaw 
and midway between Monterey and 
Warm Springs, is a "family farm" in 
the truest sense. Established by Di- 
anne Puffenbarger's family several 
generations ago, she and Mike began 
taking over primary farming respon- 
sibilities in the late 1980s when her fa- 
ther became ill. Eldest daughter 
Melissa and her husband, Eddie, 
now raise sheep, cows, and turkeys. 
Sarah cares for all the animals (sheep, 
goats, and rabbits) in the pens, while 
17-year-old Leah tends the dogs and 
also serves as teacher for her preco- 
cious and well-studied 6-year-old 
niece, Abigail. All help take care of 
Melissa's other daughter, Amelia, 
age 2. 

Mike Puffenbarger taught all of 
his girls to hunt deer and turkey. 
Leah took a big gobbler last spring. 
Sarah helps her father with turkey 
guiding chores. Despite best efforts 
last year to get a late season bird of 
her own, a mature tom never strutted 
into gun range. 

Even young Abigail got into the 
act. Sitting with her grandfather in a 
ground blind, she pulled the trigger 
on her first turkey. "It weighed 15 
and a half pounds and had a 5 and a 
half inch beard," she proudly nod- 

"She's a big part of granddaddy's 
life," Puffenbarger smiled. "Abigail 
has a lot of role models with her aunts 
and her mom," Puffenbarger said, 
adding, "Did I tell you she took a 
deer with a crossbow, with grand- 
daddy's help, when she was four and 
a half years old?" 

His daughters have become 
steadfast trophy hunters when it 
comes to deer, much to their father's 

"The other kids have almost got- 
ten too picky, mainly with deer. I tell 
them, 'Look, we're going to have to 
shoot something eventually,'" he 

A smokehouse adjacent to the 
small store full of maple-related 
products carries residual aromas of 
their catering business, spawned 
from a pork roast dinner at a church 
picnic a dozen years ago. Today, the 
whole family tries to keep pace with 
the demand for their pork barbecue, 
chicken and beef brisket meals, espe- 
cially popular at gatherings of out- 
door organizations such as the Na- 
tional Wild Turkey Federation and 
the Quality Deer Mcuiagement Asso- 

Puffenbarger also makes his own 
"Puff's" barbecue sauce, featuring 
among the ingredients — what else — 
maple syrup. 

Abigail tends to the rabbits, one of many 
daily chores to be performed. 


VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ wvwv.HuntFishVA com 

wild Treasures 

Puffenbarger fishes from a spacious 
pontoon boat on 2,500-acre Lake 
Moomaw, the impoundment created 
from the Jackson River a few decades 
ago. The lake, known for its trout, 
yellow perch, and bass fishing, is re- 
markably pristine compared to many 
Virginia impoundments that have 
steadily seen nearly every inch of wa- 
terfront consumed with homes and 
boat docks. 

After lowering his trolling motor 
and fishing lines baited with min- 
nows, Puffenbarger swept his arm 
toward the forested hillsides and 
asked, "Look around you. What do 
you see?" 

"You don't see lakes like this any- 
more except in places like Maine and 
Canada. The U.S. Forest Service land 
and Gathright Wildlife Management 
Area protect Lake Moomaw," he 

Puffenbarger takes a holistic ap- 
proach to the acreage he manages. 
Besides creating a haven for deer and 
turkey with targeted high protein 
and mineral food plots, he also wants 
to transform several parcels into 
habitat better suited for grouse and 

"I want to take it out of pasture for 
cattle and fence it to keep the habitat 
beneficial for birds. I'm working with 
the Farm Service Agency and hoping 
to partner with Quail Unlimited," he 

Puffenbarger is optimistic the 
habitat enhancements will work, not- 
ing that he introduced 400 quail to 
the property last year and some birds 
had successful hatches. His efforts 
harken back to Aldo Leopold, often 
called the father of modem conserva- 
tion, who observed, "Conservation is 
a state of harmony between men and 

For the Puffenbargers of the Al- 
legheny Highlands, tuning their 
piece of paradise to the rhythms of 
Virginia's seasons is a way of life. 

Dianne Puffenbarger arranges maple syrup on the shelves of their store, where a 
variety of products like barbecue sauce and pancake mix are sold. 


Ken Pcrrottc is a King George County resident 
and the outdoors cohinmist for Fredericksburg's 
Free Lance-Star nezvspnper. 

Mike Puffenbarger baits a hook while fishing on pristine Lake Moomaw, renowned 
for its superb trout, yellow perch, and bass fishing. 


at Money Point 
Aims to Make the 
Elizabeth River 
and Fishable 
by 2020 

The Restoran 


by Beth Hester 

amed after Princess Eliza- 
beth Stuart, daughter of 
King James I, the Elizabeth 
River is Virginia's historic tidal estu- 
ary. Situated at the southernmost end 
of the Chesapeake Bay, its three intri- 
cate branches reach deeply into 
lower Tidewater. It's not quite a river 
in the traditional sense, as the dy- 
namics of inter-tidal estuaries are dif- 
ferent. Old Man River may just keep 
rolling along, but the waters of the 
Elizabeth don't have a 'current' per 
se; they ebb and flow along with the 
tidal ranges which, in turn, impact 
the river's freshwater in-flow and 
salinity. The effect has been likened to 
that of water in a bathtub, where the 
water sloshes back and forth. 

Early explorers were startled by 

the richness of the river's ecosystem. 

Author Amy Yarsinski, in her book 

on the history of the Elizabeth 

The construction of wetland rock sill. 
Courtesy of ERP. 

River, reports that, "The Ostrea vir- 
ginica — the oyster — was enjoyed by 
the native Americans long before 
they became known to the English 
settlers who came to live along the 
banks of the Elizabeth. These earliest 
residents knew mussels, sturgeon, 
stingray, mullet, eel, catfish, perch, 
blue crab, toadfish, herring, shad, 
trout, flounder, and bass." 
,.--. .^-i^ / Captain John Smith found 
__,^AccoMAci^)*>< that the river and its environs 
formed an ideal natural harbor, 
and over time, the river was 
dredged to create port facilities. 
However, by the 1800s, the very geo- 
graphical characteristics that made 
the Elizabeth River region so 
amenable to trade also led to its 

Elizabeth River 


on of a Grand River 

Above: An aerial view of Money Point site. Courtesy of ERP. 
Below: An example of toxic deposits along the river's edge 

Over the ensuing years, and prior 
to the Clean Water Act, dredging and 
filling to accommodate a thriving in- 
dustrial base, shipyard, and military 
facilities led to a fifty percent loss of 
wetland areas. As the population 
grew and commerce increased, water 
quality began a steady, spiraling de- 
cline. Stormwater runoff, erosion, 
sewage, PCBs from transformers and 
fire-retardants, PAHs from lumber 
treatment plants, and other industrial 
poisons lead to deformed, cancerous, 
and contaminated fish and shellfish. 

These toxins, along with bacteria 
and excess nutrients, reduced the 
quality and variety of the river's 
aquatic life. Some 'hotspots' along 
the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth 
are virtual dead zones. Even the 
modest mummichog, a small, min- 
now-like fish legendary for surviving 
in polluted waterways, is feeling the 

Thankfully, not all of the Southern 
Branch is an aquatic ghost town; 
there are still some very productive 
areas with natural or restored wet- 
lands. To get a feel for the big picture, 


you have to think of the river as a mo- 
saic of various zones: dead zones, 
low-quality habitat, and high-quality 
habitat. For example, once you go 
under the High Rise Bridge, you can 
find stands of mature trees and acres 
of wetlands with little to no contami- 
nation on the river bottom. In these 
less impacted areas, the locals chick- 
en-neck for blue crabs, kayak, and 

water-ski, and relentless anglers 
enjoy some fairly spectacular catches. 
But loss of wetland habitat along 
other sections of the river continues 
to negatively impact many forms of 
wildlife, including shore birds and 





Wetlands are among the most pro- 
ductive ecosystems on the planet: 
They curb erosion, support many dif- 
ferent plant and animal species, help 
reduce flooding, and act as natural 
water filters, absorbing impurities as 
the water runs through. Wetland 
areas are generally comprised of 
three parts: 

• Uplancls: These are the higher, 
dry lands that surround a wet- 
land. Healthy upland areas sup- 
port trees, grasses, and many 
other types of vegetation. Along 
with the riparian zone, uplands 
act as buffers because the deep 
root systems of trees and other 
vegetation help stabilize the soil 
and provide erosion control. 

• Tne Riparian Zone: This 
transition area — the strip of land 
between the uplands and the 
acjuatic zone — generally hosts a 
diverse group of plants which, in 
turn, support small mammals, 
birds, butterflies, bees, and other 

• Tne Aquatic Zone: The wet, 

watery region of the shore envi- 
ronment generally below the 
high-water mark supports rushes, 
cattail, and many different acjuatic 
plants. Importantly, the aquatic 
zone provides spawning area and 
nursery habitat for a variety of 

•^ . M 

Continued degradation of the Eliza- 
beth's wetlands and waters could 
signal tiie death of one of Virginia's 
most valued waterways, but there is 
some very good news. The river is 
getting cleaned up, thanks to the on- 
going efforts of the Elizabeth River 
Project (ERP), a non-profit, grass- 
roots organization dedicated to 
restoring the river's water quality 
through partnerships, while affirm- 
ing its economic value as a port. In- 
corporated in 1993, the ERP already 
has numerous success stories to 
share. The organization led by Execti- 
tive Director Marjorie Mayfield Jack- 
son has become a shining example 
for others who seek to build commu- 
nity coalitions and encourage ecolog- 
ical stewardship. 

One of those stewardship projects 
has been funded through a Virgima 
Migratory Waterfowl Stamp grant, 
and brings the Department (DGIF) 
together with the ERP to help restore 
one of the river's most infamous 
dead zones: Money Point. It's a heav- 
ily industrialized bend in the South- 
ern Branch, home to the creosote- 
laden lumber treatment facilities of 
yesteryear. This toxic, tarry substance 
leacheci into the Elizabeth by various 
means, leaving behind a legacy of 
contaminated sediment on the 
river's bottom; a sticky, black, nox- 
ious goo. But now, with the Depart- 
ment's help, the goo is going ... going 
... gone. 

David Norris leads wetlands proj- 
ects for the Department and knows 
firsthand the history and disappear- 
ance of these critical ecosystems 
throughout Virgima for generations. 
When asked about Money Point, he 
noted that the project is part of a 
much larger effort by the agency to 
increase habitat for all wildlife 
species native to Virginia. 

Norris added, "The Duck Stamp 
grant was a natural fit, as the stamp 
was mandated by the Virginia Gener- 
al Assembly in 2005 to protect, pre- 
serve, restore, enhance, and develop 
waterfowl habitat in Virginia. We 
were able to give the restoration proj- 
ect $30,000 from the Duck Stamp 

View of the area prior to planting, and after wetland and buffer restoration (p. 11). 

fund, and we worked with Joe 
Rieger, the ERP's director of wet- 
lands restoration, to find the best 
ways to restore the upland and ripar- 
ian portions of the site." 

Specifically, the goo-contaminat- 
ed sediment from Money Point is 
dredged from the river bottom and 
trucked out to one of two sites for 
treatment and safe disposal. In addi- 
tion to cleaning up the toxic mess, the 
Elizabeth River Project has initiated 
ongoing plans to avoid recontamina- 
tion of the river through prudent 

stormwater and drainage manage- 
ment of the upland areas surround- 
ing the river. The upland restoration 
included 2,100 plants consisting of 
over 15 species of native hardwoods. 
Upon completion, the habitat will 
offer 5.65 acres of wetland and up- 
land buffer, and provide much-need- 
ed habitat for ducks, wading birds, 
and songbirds in an otherwise urban, 
industrialized landscape. 

The upland areas were re-graded, 
and over four acres of the invasive 
reed, Phragmites, were eradicated. 

Dr. Julie Ball shows off 7-lb. trout caught near the hot ditch. 

VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.cotn 

Soil from the grading was placed into 
a large bermed area which, along 
with surrounding areas, was re- 
forested. Again, much of this upland 
restoration was funded through Vir- 
ginia's duck stamp program. 

In addition to the Department's 
efforts and work by many stakehold- 
ers and corporate entities involved in 
this historic cleanup, scientists from 
around Virginia lent their expertise to 
the project: Walter Priest from the 
NOAA Restoration Center devel- 
oped the conceptual design and as- 
sisted during construction; Jim Ca- 
hoon of Bay Environmental was con- 
struction manager for the project; 

DGIF's David Norhs(L) accepts award from 
Joe Rieger (C). Photos courtesy of ERP. 

Miklos Lestyan, City of Chesapeake 
Arborist, assisted with species selec- 

In a recent iriterview, Joe Rieger, 
ERP's point person, shared how he 
thinks other communities might 
leani from Money Point about coali- 
tion building: "You can get more ac- 
complished through a non-con- 
frontational, collaborative approach. 
Finger pointing isn't generally pro- 
ductive, and you can maximize re- 
sources when all of the groups work 
together. The key is to incorporate 
the whole community into the 
process, and have them become part 
of the planning and implementation. 
In the end, it results in tangible out- 
comes about which everyone can be 

When asked how we'll be able to 
gauge the success of the Money Point 
portion of the "Swimmable and Fish- 
able by 2020" river cleanup plan, Joe 
said it all comes down to the healtli of 
the unassuming mummichog. 
Named after an American Indian 
word for "going in crowds," it's an 
extremely important food source for 
larger fish, and wading and sea birds. 
It also happens to be a good indicator 
species — telling the story of a given 
waterway's condition. Rieger ex- 

plained tliat mummichogs live their 
entire lives within a 50-yard area, so 
their health reflects the health of their 
immediate surroundings. Working 
from a research design by NOAA- 
Sea Grant scientists, mummichog 
samples were taken before the proj- 
ect began, and the site will be re-sam- 
pled in two to three years to assess 
post-cleanup cancer levels in the fish. 
If the Elizabeth River Project's ini- 
tiatives stay on schedule, by 2020 
swimmers, anglers, crabbers, and 
mummichogs all across southeast- 
ern Virginia will be breathing sighs 
of relief. Z 

BctJi Hester is a writer mid freelance photogra- 
pher from Portsmouth. Her passions indude 
reading, shooting, kayaking, fisliing, tying salt- 
water flies, and tending her herb garden. 


• For more about the Elizabeth 
River Project's programs, and 
how you can help, visit their 
highly educational website: 

• TJic Elizabeth River: Virginia's Re- 
markable River Princess by Amy 
Waters Yarsinski. The History 
Press, 843-577-5971 



life lessons are 

shared among 

three generations 

while hunting 


story by Tee Clarkson' 
photos by Dwiglit Dyke 

hether it involves a holi- 
day, meeting future in- 
laws for the first time, or a 
wedding, the family gathering has 
been much maligned over the 
years — particularly on television and 
in the movies. Usually it is for 
comedic effect, and for the most part. 

the message remains the same in the 
end: There is nothing stronger, more 
powerful, and more important than 

During times when some of the 
'old' ways are giving in to the 'new', 
maintaining outdoor, family tradi- 
tions like hunting becomes even 
more important. Three generations 
of Hickses certainly understand this 
concept as they relish weekly family 
reunions from the beginning of deer 
season in mid-November until the 
end of rabbit season in February. 
They are not alone. Throughout the 
state, hunting brings together gener- 
ations, including families, in a way 
that almost no other activity can. 

I joined Will Hicks, his two sons 
Connor (8) and Cole (10), and his fa- 
ther for a rabbit hunt on a crisp, Feb- 
ruary morning. We met at a gas sta- 
tion off Route 360 in King and Queen 
County. Relatives and friends piled 
out of vehicles and exchanged good- 




Abovt: IVill Hicks teaches his son proper gun safety. For Will, as it should be for all hunters, safety is the first priority when it 
comes to hunting. Left: Perhaps the most important lesson passed down through the generations is that hunting is not about 
the kill, but more about enjoying time outside with family and friends and respecting the wild environments that harbor such 

natured insults and ribbings whose 
specifics were lost on an outsider, but 
for the most part I got the point. 
Everyone was smiling and laughing. 
After a brief stop to pick up a few es- 
sentials — Mountain Dews, Gator- 
ades, BBQ chips, and breakfast sand- 
wiches — the caravan pulled out of 
the lot and down the road to a farm 
where they would hunt rabbits. - 
Unfortunately, not all hunters 
have the opportunity to share a blind 
or a stand with a parent, and even 
fewer with a grandparent. My grand- 
father passed away before I was born, 
so I have only an oral history of what 


he was like, and most of those stories 
my father told me while we were 
hunting or fishing. An Episcopal 
minister, my grandfather's favorite 
escape was fly fishing for brook trout 
in the mountains of North Carolina, 
but that's not to say he didn't enjoy a 
deer hunt from time to time. He was 
never the same, my father says, after 
returning from World War II, where 
he read the last rights to many a 
dying young man. I can only imagine 
and hope that he found his much- 
needed solace during his days in the 
woods. I wish I had hgen able to share 
just one with him. l"*'* 



In twenty minutes, our caravan 
turns off the pavement, down a dirt 
road, and through a gate before park- 
ing in a small field. Mr. Hicks, or 
"Bulldog," as family and friends 
refer to him, still bounds with energy 
at 67, and is ready to go before most 
everyone else has even gotten out of 
their vehicles. I cannot help but be en- 
vious, watching as Will helps his two 
boys get organized and the three gen- 
erations of Hickses grab guns and 
shells and set out to hunt. Within 
minutes, John Wayne Hicks, a cousin, 
lets the dogs loose and the hunt is on. 

Connor quickly sets out in the 
woods with Bulldog while Cole 
sticks with his father along the road. 
Only a few minutes pass before the 
dogs jump a rabbit, chasing it across 
the road and back through the woods 
where Bulldog and Connor wait. En- 
ergy mounts in the air as the dogs get 
louder. Will and Cole take off up the 
road and 11 -year-old Ashley Stone 
stands ready with her father, Pat, 
along the edge of a cutover. Shortly, 
though, the excitemeiit wanes as it 
becomes evident that this particular 
rabbit has managed to dodge the 
dogs and disappear unharmed. 


More and more young ladies are taking up tiie sport of hunting. Pat Stone started 
bringing his daughters, Ashley and Maddie, when they were around 8 years old. 

Pat started hunting with the Hicks 
family when he and Will were kids, 
and naturally, when his daughters 
were old enough he started bringing 
them along. Ashley has been carry- 
ing a gun with ten-year-old sister 
Maddie, who is home with the flu, 
and her father since she was eight. If 

she is at all intimidated to be hunting 
with mostly boys, it does not show, 
and certainly the ten-point buck she 
killed last year cannot hurt. 

"Yeah... They don't like her too 
much," Pat says proudly, joking and 
bragging about the fact that Ashley 
killed the biggest buck among the 





youngsters in the hunt club last year. 
"But honestly, there are more and 
more women getting into hunting. I 
started taking my girls and they 
loved it, so I kept taking them." 

When I ask Ashley her favorite 
part about hunting, I half-expect her 
to say something about the big buck 
she killed, but instead I discover her 
favorite thing is ". . . seeing stuff, and 
the dogs. I like the dogs," she says, 
smiling shyly. 

It does not take long before the 
dogs get on a fresh scent and have an- 
other rabbit up and running. Some 
rustling in the woods to the side of 
the road signals Connor and Bull- 
dog's emergence through a patch of 
thick briars. 

"See anything?" Will asks quickly. 

"Man, I had rabbits running all 
over the place. I just didn't have a dog 
to get on them." Bulldog smiles 

Connor looks at his father, shak- 
ing his head in the negative. Will 
laughs. Will, like his father did with 
him, and his father before that, start- 
ed bringing his boys out to walk 
around when they were only four or 
five years old. Like Ashlev and her 

sister, they dici not start shooting 
until they were eight. As far as safety 
is concerned for youngsters in the 
field, Will says, "My boys know there 
are no do-overs when it comes to 

"There are lessons for life out 
here," Will acknowledges. "Lessons 
they can't learn the same way any- 
where else. It's about sportsmanship 
and camaraderie, but it's about so 
much else." 

Based on the fading sound of the 
dogs, the rabbit has am off through 
the cutover where Daniel Hicks, an- 
other cousin, and his father, John 
Wayne, are waiting. The dogs are hot 
on the trail and everyone waits for a 

"There's so much baci stuff kids 
can get into these days," Will contin- 
ues. "Hunting offers them something 
positive to get involved in. They say 
if you hunt with them early, you 
don't have to hunt for them later." 

Bullciog, perpetually on the ready, 
moseys over to the group with one 
eye always on the woods, and puts 
his arm around Cole. He grew up 
hunting with his grandfather in 
Louisa, Goochland, and Buckingham 

counties when he was a kid. As with 
many families, the hunting tradition 
for the Hickses extends as far back as 
anyone can trace. 

Finally a shot rings out from the 
cutover and the dogs get quiet. In a 
couple minutes, Daniel emerges 
holding a rabbit — the first of eleven 
they would kill this day. The kids take 
off down the road to check it out. 

Bulldog smiles. "It's all about 
havin' fun with the kids and grand- 
kids," he says. "All about getting to- 
gether and havin' fun." 

There is little doubt, the lumting 
tradition will continue in the Hicks 
family as it does in so many others in 
Virginia. Hopefully, there will still be 
wild places to hunt in the future for 
these boys now darting down a dirt 
road to look at a cousin's rabbit. With 
a little good fortune, both Connor 
and Cole will have the opportunity to 
walk the woods with their grandchil- 
dren someday recognizing, as Bull- 
dog does, that it's all about getting'jSjj^ 
together and havin' fun. U\ 

Tec CInrkson is an English teacher at Deep Run 
Higli School in Henrico Co. and runs Virginia 
Fishing Adventures, a fishing camp for kids: 


arch of the 




An ancient ritua I 
is documented by 
Sweet Briar students. 


by Suzanne Ramsey 

Under cloak of darkness, 
they cross dangerous ter- 
rain. Up and down hills, 
around logs and rocks. Predators — 
barred owls, skunks, even unwitting 
size-9 Nikes — threaten their sur- 
vival as they crawl over wet leaves 
and finally, hopefully, make their 
way to the breeding pool. 

It was the "March of the Salaman- 
ders," and although Morgan Free- 
man did not narrate their slithery 
trek, the journey of the spotted sala- 
mander from the underground bur- 
rows of Guion Woods to the man- 
made Guion Pond was no less dra- 
matic. For the first time at Sweet 
Briar College, this breeding ritual 
was documented during early 
March by a research team of stu- 
dents and professors. 

Although students have studied 
the local salamanders for decades, a 
few years ago someone threw a 
curve ball at the little critters, neces- 
sitating a more in-depth study. In 
2002, predatory mosquitofish were 
released into the pond, possibly by a 
well-intentioned fisherman or 
someone afraid of the spread of West 
Nile virus. 

"We are concerned that these fish 
and other predators may be eating 
so many juveniles that the popula- 
tion will decline," biology professor 
Linda Fink noted recently. 

"The study we're starting, and 
hope to continue for years, will give 
us a lot of information about the 
population. The specific question 
we hope to address is whether our 
population has a healthy mix of indi- 
viduals of all ages, or if it is an aging 
population because few or no juve- 
niles are escaping from the preda- 
tors in the pond." 

Black with neon yellow spots, the 
salamanders are about 8 inches long, 
including the tail. They are native to 
the Sweet Briar property, as well as 
the eastern United States and south- 
em Canada. The Guion Woods sala- 
manders are the only group that 
Fink is aware of on campus. 

^ night light, shown here, helps those 
scanning the woodland trail detect 

Mike Hayslett, adjunct professor 
of environmental science at Sweet 
Briar, has been studying wetlands 
and their inhabitants for 20 years. He 
believes this 'family' of salamanders 
has been breeding in Guion Pond for 
a half-century or more. 

"Unlike most amphibians that 
live two or three years," he said, 
"spotted salamanders can live to be 
20 or 30. They spend about 360 days a 
year underground, eating earth- 
worms and bugs, and emerge on the 
first warm, rainy day of the year — the 
'salamander rain' — to breed." 

Hayslett defined salamander rain 
as a cyclical event and said tliree con- 
ditions — rain, near-50-degree tem- 
peratures, and thunder — are usually 
present. "Some say it's an auditory 
cue," he said of the thunder. "The 
aimbles and vibration might be a cue 
to wake them up." 

Above ground, the salamanders' 
objective is equally primal. Biology 
professor Fink put it simply: "Once a 
year, they doodle over to the pond, 
breed for a week and come back." 

Ready, Set, Whoa 

Unfortunately, when you're dealiiig 
with Mother Nature, you're also on 
her time clock. 

The team, made up mostly of ecol- 
ogy students, had hoped to begin 
their research on Feb. 20. The timing 
was right, as salamander movement 
in this area usually begins in mid- 
February to early March and a chance 
of rain was in the weather forecast. 

"They have porous skin and are 
very susceptible to drying out. They 
need a high moisture content in the 



•» ♦ 


Salamanders breeding, above. Right; salamander egg mass. 

air," Hayslett emphasized, adding 
that some might travel as far as a half 
a mile to the pond, making dehydra- 
tion a viable threat. 

Add to that the fact that spotted 
salamanders aren't exactly speedy. 
"They're very slow," he said. "Not 
like skinks." 

It was after 6 p.m. in the Guion bi- 
ology lab when Fiiik gave the stu- 
dents — many clad in rain gear and 
rubber boots — their assignments. 
Some would be on "pit crews," gath- 
ering salamanders from around 
sheet metal fences the team had erect- 
ed in various woodland locations. 

According to Hayslett, salaman- 
ders aren't keen on climbing over 
large objects, so when they reach a 
solid fence or a log, they will turn left 
or right. In this case, after making the 
turn salamanders would fall into cof- 
fee cans full of leaf matter, buried 
strategically by students. 

Pit crew staffers would then scoop 
up the salamanders, deposit them 
into plastic baggies, and label the 
bags with time and location. 

Other students would act as "run- 
ners," transporting the creatures 
back and forth between the pit crews 
and the lab. Some would be "spot- 
ters," scanning the woodland trail for 
action and marking salamander 
sightings with surveyor's flags. 

In the lab, students and professors 
would process the salamanders — 
measuring, weighing, photograph- 
ing, and using the "Twitty" method 
to remove one of the animal's toes for 
future identification and chronology 

"You can tell the age of the sala- 
mander, like tree rings," Hayslett 
said. "We have the specific goal to ob- 
tain [and] preserve how stable this 
population of spotted salamanders 
might be. If it's composed mostly of 

old adults with little apparent recruit- 
ment, as evidenced by younger 
adults, then we have a population of 
critters that needs help." 

After processing, the runners 
would take the salamanders back to 
where they were found and point 
them toward the pond. "Kiss them on 
the head and wish them fond 
farewell," Fink said, eliciting a groan 
from Hayslett. 

"No," he said. "Don't kiss them on 
the head." 

Assignments made, the students 
waited in the lab, headlamps perched 
on their heads. But still, there was no 
rain. So Fink and Hayslett suspended 
the studv and led the group on a brief 
tour of Guion Woods, pointing out 
the fences and demonstrating collec- 
tion methods. 

As for the postponement, Hayslett 
just shrugged "If we hit it, it's one of 
the coolest phenomena," he said. 


Raining Salamanders 

The salamander rain began on March 
1, first as a misty morning drizzle and 
progressing to a soaking rain by mid- 
night. By 10 p.m. the woods around 
Guion Pond were slicker than, well, a 
spotted salamander. 

The team met in the lab at 6:30 
p.m., and within an hour the first 
salamanders were spotted. By 7:30, 
student Jenny Walkiewicz said the 
sunken coffee cans at one fence line 
had halted the forward progression 
of about 50 specimens. 

"They were exciting," she said, 
adding what had become a common 
opinion. "They are very cute." 

Each specimen collected is measured 
and weighed for the logbook. 

At about 9:30 p.m. Doreen 
McVeigh was on the trail working as 
a spotter. She estimates she found one 
every three minutes. "They were 
scurrying along the path pretty 
quickly," she said, countering 
Hayslett's claim that salamanders are 
slow. "They're pretty quick when 
they want to be." 

By 10 p.m. the team had counted 
more than 200. In the lab, baggies of 
yellow polka-dotted amphibians mo- 
nopolized the end of one table as stu- 
dents and professors measured, 
weighed, and documented each one. 
Mud was everywhere — on boots, 
clothes, and trailing down the tiled 

Hayslett, dressed in a pink and 
green Sweet Briar T-shirt and match- 
ing green hat, said the results were 


exceptional. "Tonight's success I at- 
tribute to the pink T-shirt," he said, 
jokingly. "I put on the T-shirt and got 
the call." 

By morning, approximately 575 
salamanders had been encountered, 
470 of which were hand-examined in 
the lab. The male-to-female ratio was 
3-to-l, and the largest recorded was a 
42.5-gram female. "We saw some ex- 
tremely large individuals, suggesting 
a very stable and old population," 
Hayslett said. 

"But we also were delighted to see 
many smaller, younger adults, sug- 
gesting that sufficient recruitment is 
occurring. This is, of course, prior to 
number crunching and summer in- 
vestigations into this matter." 

There were other surprises during 
the night, too, including spotless sala- 
manders and aiiimals with bifurcat- 
ed and trifurcated toes. Salamander 
No. 201 had a thin, deformed tail. 
Hayslett attributed the abnormality 
to malnutrition, prompting one 
thoughtful student to ask, "Can I give 
him a cricket?" 

The team also was taken aback to 
see many salamanders emerge from 
burrows adjacent to the pond, and 
not from deeper in the forest as pre- 
dicted. Standing in ankle-deep mud 
around midnight, Hayslett pointed 
to an area near the pond's spillway 
where the creek bed sunk under- 

He said he'd seen salamanders 
pouring from the hole like water 
from a well — "dozens and dozens" 

of them. "It's humbling to be out- 
smarted by 8-inch amphibians," he 
said later. 

Equally surprising, some sala- 
manders didn't go to Guion Pond at 
all, and opted to breed in a cove on 
the eastern side of the Upper Lake. "I 
had a hunch that some might go to 
the Upper Lake," Hayslett said, 
adding that he'd set a few basket 
traps just in case. 

"Possibly another two dozen sala- 
manders are residing in that northern 
extreme of Guion Woods and instead 
of hiking to the pond, which is satu- 
rated with animals, they go down the 
slope to the lake." 

After laying their eggs, the adult 
salamanders will reti,irn home with 
the next rain, and it'll be mid-sum- 
mer before babies emerge from the 
pond and make tlieir way into Guion 
Woods. In the meantime, Hayslett, 
Fink, and their team have lots of 
work to do: analyzing data, planning 
future studies, and commg up with a 
conservation plan. 

"It was exhausting," Hayslett said 
a couple of days later. "But it was a 
sensational experience and greatly 
exceeded my expectations. [It was] 
the best 'big night' experience I've 
seen since 1998, and I was delighted 
that the students got to experience 
this natural phenomenon, especially 
after we built up their anticipation so. 
Whew, I'm relieved." D 

Suzanne Rninsci/ lives and luritcs in Lynchburg, 




\j _ 

Virginia's springtime 

tidal run of hickory and 

American shad should 

not he missed. 

photos and story 

KYou can set your watch by it. 
*' Every year it's the same. 
March Madness is to college 

hoops what the shad run is to anglers 
in eastern Virginia. Hickory and 
American shad invade the common- 
wealth's tidal rivers each spring, and 
many refer to them as "poor man's 
tarpon." Well, let's discount any ref- 
erence to poor. These fish species are 
simply awesome. 

With a big motor and a feisty atti- 
tude, hickories and Americans are 
true fighters. Hickory shad leap like 
an all-star basketball player with a se- 
rious vertical, while American shad 
are more prone to buUdogging when 

Therefore, the comparison to tar- 
pon is right on target, but not the 
"poor" part. For those looking to in- 
terest kids or others that do not ven- 
ture into the sport of fishing very 
often, March and April would be the 
time to pounce. When the run is on, 
even a newcomer can become addict- 
ed to fishing. 

Richmond fly angler Henry Thedieck 
decides on the right fly to fool shad in 
the James River. 


Both species have monikers. The 
American shad (Alosa sapidissima) 
also answers to white shad, Atlantic 
shad, and common shad. American 
shad have a silvery body and their 
back varies from greenish to dark 
blue. A row of dark spots highlights 
their sides. Spots on their "shoul- 
ders" are more noticeable, but usual- 
ly only one large spot is observed. 
The lower jaw does not extend past 
the upper. Their bellies have sharp, 
saw-like scales, and they have a 
deeply forked tail. 

American shad are significantly 
larger than hickory shad. They can at- 
tain lengths of 30 inches, which is a 
real bruiser. They are considered the 
tastiest and once fed American Indi- 
ans and settlers. 


Below: Hickory shad are fast, leap-when- 
hooked hard fighters, and will put a 
smile on all anglers' faces. Right: 
Teaching a child to fish during the shad 
run is sure to leave a lasting impression. 




A River Rows Through It 

• For fisheries information, to view 
the Shad Cam (an underwater 
camera at Bosher Dam and Fish- 
way), or to learn about the fish- 
passage program and shad 
restoration efforts, visit online at 

• In an effort to reintroduce and en- 
hance American shad numbers, 
the Department began a restora- 
tion program in 1992 that contin- 
ues today. Annual shad fry stock- 
ings occur in the James, Potomac, 
Rappahannock, and Pamunkey 

• Catching American and hickory 
shad above the fall line in Virginia 
rivers is strictly a catch-and-re- 
lease deal. The Virginia Marine 
Resources Commission sets the 
creel and length limits below the 
fall line in tidal rivers of the 
Chesapeake Bay. Always check 
current regulations before shad 
fishing at 

• Prime boat-launching ramps for 
the shad run include Ancarrow's 
Landing (Richmond) for the 
James River and City Dock (Fred- 
ericksburg) for the Rappahan- 
nock River. 

These awesome specimens histor- 
ically spawned in virtually every ac- 
cessible river and tributary along the 
Atlantic coast from Canada to Flori- 
da. However, blockage on spawning 
rivers by dams and other impedi- 
ments, degradation of water quality, 
and overfishing depleted their 

American shad are anadromous 
fish, spend the majority of their lives 
at sea, and only enter fresh water in 
the spring to spawn. They are also 
river-specific, meaning each major 
river along the Atlantic coast appears 
to have a discrete spawning stock, 
and adults return to their natal river 
to spawn. 

Juveniles feed upon zooplankton 
and terrestrial insects. Adults feed on 
plankton, small crustaceans, and 
small fish while in the ocean. The ex- 
ception occurs during the upriver 
migration, during which time they 
do not feed. Spawning occurs in Vir- 
ginia in March and April. 

Depending on their geographical 
location, American shad may spawn 
once and die, or they may survive to 
make several spawning runs per life- 
time. 'Repeat' spawning in American 
shad differs according to latitude. 
Shad that spawn in rivers that are 
more northerly may survive to 
spawn several times; however, most 

American shad native to rivers south 
of Cape Fear, North Carolina, die 
after spawning. 

George Washington was the most 
prominent American shad fisher- 
man in the region, apparently land- 
ing thousands of pounds from the 
Potomac River. American shad were 
once highly sought in the Chesa- 
peake Bay — prized for their roe and 

Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) are 
speed demons. These fast fish are 
also referred to as hickory jacks or tai- 
lor shad. Hickory shad are grayish- 
green in color along the back, with 
iridescent silver sides and belly. 

Hickory shad leap like an all-star 
basketball player with a serious ver- 
tical, while American shad are more 
prone to bulldogging when hooked. 

Hickories have a shoulder spot 
that may be followed by several faint 
spots along their sides. Like Ameri- 
can shad, they have sharp, saw-like 
scales along the belly. An identifying 
feature is that the lower jaw juts out 
farther than the upper jaw. 

At 12 to 20 inches, hickory shad 
are noticeably smaller than Ameri- 
can shad, but larger than alewife and 
blueback herring. They average 1 to 2 
pounds, but 3 pounders are possible. 

Hickories are a schooling-type, 
migratory species. They too are 
anadromous fish, which spend the 
majority of their life at sea, but enter 
fresh water in the spring to spawn. 

Studies suggest that hickory shad 
migrate in a pattern similar to the 
coastal migrations of American shad, 
feeding on small fish, squid, fish 
eggs, small crabs, and pelagic crus- 
taceans. In the Chesapeake Bay re- 
gion, hickory shad spawning runs 
usually precede American shad runs 
and usually commence in March. 
The event lingers into May, although 
the fishing slows significantly. 

Colorful flies work wonders at catching 
American and hicl<ory shad from 
Virginia's tidal rivers in March and April. 




Henry Thedieck admires a chunky hickory shod caught from the James River. 


Unlike American shad, 'repeat' 
spawning in hickory shad runs ap- 
pears to be common, but tends to 
vary among river systems. Biologists 
indicate that spawning takes place 
between dusk and midnight. 

After spawning, adults return to 
the Atlantic, but their distribution 
and movements in the ocean are es- 
sentially unknown. It is believeci that 
they follow a pattern similar to the 
coastal migrations of American shad, 
moving northward from the mid-At- 
lantic and Southeast after spawning, 
although recent studies suggest they 
prefer inshore habitat. 

Serious bass anglers need a giant 
Samsonite suitcase to hold their stuff. 
Nothing could be further from the 
tmth when shad fishing. Fly-rodding 
and conventional spimiing or spin- 
casting ec]|uipment are effective to 
catch hickories and Americans. 


Shad darts are the norm for con- 
ventional casters. Spinning or spin- 
casting gear, spooled with 4- to 8- 
pound test line is all that is needed. Fly 
anglers can leverage 6- or 7-weight fly 
rods, use weighted flies, and sink-tip 
or full-sink line to score. Both species of 
shad can be finicky regarding color 
preference. Therefore, it's a good idea 
to carry several color combinations. 
Some tried-and-true colors patterns in- 
clude chartreuse and wliite, pink and 
white, green and red, chartreuse and 
red, and yellow and green. Of course, 
let the fish tell you what they want. 

The size and weight of the dart or 
fly can be paramount to success — or 
failure. Experiment with retrieve 
speeds and depth. It can change from 
day to day, from hour to hour, or even 
from tide to tide. 

Another lure to consider is a small 
spoon. Double rigs are common, either 
by using a spoon and shati dart, two 
shad darts, or two spoons. Experiment 
and bring a stash, as the river bottom 
can eat some of your offerings. 

The shad am occurs in tidal rivers up 
and ciown tlie Coastal Pleiin. Urban ein- 
glers should have high expectations in 
places where tidal rivers meet their re- 
spective fall lilies. On the James River, 
this occurs near downtown Richmond. 
On the Rappahannock, it takes place 
near Fredericksburg. The Potomac and 
Pamunkey rivers also have strong ains. 

Don't pass on this opportuiiity as it 
will be gone in a bLLrik of tlie eye. It's a 
great way to introduce a cHld or non-an- 
gler to the wonderful sport of fislting. 
Heck, if s even viable for working stiffs to 
spend their lunch hour swiiiging a few 
shad before heading back to work. 

Wrestling with a 1- to 3-pound Mcko- 
ry shad or a 5- to 8-potmd Americ£U"i shad 
is about as mudi fun as an angler caii 
have. If this is what "poor" man's tarpon 
means, believe you me, I'll take it! D 

Marc N. McGlade is a zoriter and piwtograpiier 
from Midlothian, wlio can't zoait for March to 
take 8-i/car-old son Justin back to tlie James 
River to oijoy softie sliad fislung. 


by Bruce Ingram 

The sages claim there comes 
a time in every man's life 
when he reaches the 
proverbial fork in the road. For 
Roanoke's Joe Williams, a fisheries 
biologist who has been with the De- 
partment since 1980, that moment 
came about eight years ago. At the 
time, Williams and Virginia Tech 
graduate student Travis Brenden 
were engaged in a muskie study proj- 
ect for the DGIF and Virginia Tech. 

Before that project, Joe had been a 
dedicated river smallmouth angler. 

"One time when Travis and I were 
electro fishing for muskies, we 
caught one that weighed 39 pounds 
and measured 50^2 inches," recalled 
the biologist. "At the time, that fish 
would have been close to the state 
record. It was difficult to shock up so 
many big fish like that one and others 
and not become interested in fishing 
for them. 

"In 2003, the last year of the study, 
Travis and I began to fish together for 
muskies. I caught the first one be- 

tween us, and that fish had one of the 
transmitters that we had earlier 
placed in it. That fish was a stronger, 
fiercer battler than any smallmouth I 
had ever caught." 

Williams related that every time 
he ventures to the New River to 
study muskies, doing so is an act of 
sheer pleasure. He also emphasized 
that many people possess miscon- 
ceptions about this gamefish. 

"The biggest myth is that muskies 
eat a lot of smallmouths, which isn't 
true," said the biologist. "Where this 
myth likely came from is that when 



an angler reels in a bass, it looks like 
an injured creature to a muskie, 
which strikes the fish. That strike gets 
expanded into "muskies are eating all 
the smallmouths." 

"In fact, just about everybody who 
fishes for river smallmouths has a 
'muskie attacked my smallie' story. 
But we pumped the stomachs of 
some 180 muskies and found only a 
few smallmouths, and they were all 
5- to 6-inch fish." 

Another falsehood is that muskies 
have a negative impact on the forage 
base of smallmouths and other "pre- 
ferred" gamefish. Williams informed 
me that muskies mainly eat extreme- 
ly abundant shiners and other min- 
nows until they reach about two feet 
in length. From that point until they 
reach about 40 inches, these toothy 
predators consume mostly rock bass, 
sunfish, and suckers. "When they be- 
come really big," continued Williams, 
"they go mostly for suckers." 

A third and popular myth is that 
muskies are a fish of 10,000 casts. 

"It's true that muskies can be very 
difficult to fish for at times," said 
Williams. "But there are dedicated 
muskie fishermen, Alex Scott of 
McCoy comes quickly to mind, that 
regularly catch three or four per day 

As Joe Williams attempts to land a muskie, it thrashes wildly within the net. 
These behemoths boast brute power. 

on the New, below Clayton I had two, 
3-fish days last year and at least three, 
2-fish days. And I am only able to fish, 
at most, twice a month for them." 

Where Muskellunge Dwell 

Williams related that muskies prefer 
slow-moving pools with depths of at 
least four feet that offer shallow, well 
oxygenated water nearby. Given the 
many rapids and riffles on the lower 
New, this means that muskies poten- 
tially can inhabit every pool from 
below Claytor Lake to the West Vir- 
ginia line. 


"I can't look at a pool and state 
that muskies are in there," explained 
Williams. "I've been fooled many 
times before. And, certainly, some 
pools are going to have more 
muskies than others. One thing that 
complicates matters is that the fish 
don't seem to have requirements 
about the amount of rock or wood 
cover present." 

However, during the winter, 
muskies (like smallmouths) tend to 
concentrate in wintering holes. As 
temperatures drop, more fish can be 
found in one spot than at any other 
time, said the biologist. He has even 
observed as many as 15 of these fish 
in one pool during a winter electro 
fishing survey. But when the repro- 
ductive period begins (and muskies 

do successfully spawn on the lower 
New) these members of the pike fam- 
ily widely disperse as they head to 
spawning areas. 

The New contains such plants as 
water willow, elodea, eel grass, star 
grass, and curly-leaf pondweed, and 
a misconception I had about muskies 
is that they often take up position 
near such vegetation. Williams said 
that the fish are just as likely, if not 
more so, to be found near rock or 
wood cover, but, again, water depth 
is the most important factor. 

khove: DGIF Fisheries biologists electro fishing and tagging muskie on Burke 
Lake. Below: Joe Williams with a trophy muskie that he caught on the lower 
New River. 

Management Efforts 

From Fields Dam downstream to the 
West Virginia state line on the New 
River and Claytor Lake, only one 
muskie per day can be kept, and a 
minimum length restriction of 42 
inches exists. To receive a citation, an- 
glers must catch at least either a 40- 
inch long fish or one that weighs 15 

Williams noted that one of the rea- 
sons for the restrictions is that, based 
on a review of the previous 10 years 
of citation data, anglers were keeping 
54 percent of the citation muskies 
they caught. Many of those fish were 
in the 38- to 42-inch size range. 

"My feeling is that smallmouth 
anglers kept many of the fish because 
they happened to catch the biggest 
fish of their lives," he said. "My feel- 
ing also is that dedicated muskie an- 
glers would not keep a fish that size. I 
believe that the length restriction will 
increase the number of citation-sized 

Williams related that muskies prefer 
slow-moving pools with depths of at 
least four feet that offer shallow, well 
oxygenated water nearby. 

How-to Tactics 

For muskies, Joe Williams relies on 
three categories of lures: 

>- Large in-line spinners up to 12 
inches long. A good example is the 
Mepps Muskie Killer. 

5^ Ten-inch or so jerkbaits, like 
Suicks, which can dive, dart, and 

>- Glide baits which can be made to 
walk the dog underwater and 
which can sink to any depth. Hell- 
hounds, which measure 8 to 9 
inches and weigh 3/2 ounces, are 
good examples. 

Obviously, these lures create a 
huge splash when they splat down, 
which Williams said does not deter a 
muskie from striking. Indeed, the 
racket apparently can excite a fish 
into hitting. These lures displace a 






Facts About 

Esox masquinongy 

• In Virginia and other southern states, 
few people eat muskies, as they con- 
tain a number of Y-shaped bones. 
Northern anglers, though, find the fil- 
lets delicious and cook the flesh until 
the bones largely break down. 

Muskies spawn in the spring when the 
water temperature reaches the low to 

Female muskies produce well over 
20,000 eggs and as many as 180,000. 

Males do not make beds; instead, the 
male fertilizes the female as they 
swim about at night in shallow water. 

Eggs attach to whatever random de- 
bris they fall against and hatch be- 
tween 8 and 14 days. 

Both sexes mature when they are 
about three years old and reach some 
20 inches long. 

Streamlined like a missile with a 
white belly, the fish exhibits a light 
green to olive-brown back, which 
grows darker over time. Sides have 
dark vertical bars (compared to the 
chain-like markings of Virginia's na- 
tive, chain pickerel) which lighten as 
the fish ages. 

Below: Muskie lures are often eight or more inches long, like these hard plastic plugs, or 
heavy like the Mepps Musky Killer spinner at bottom which weighs P/s ounces. 

great deal of water as they are re- 
turned and often at the end of the 
retrieve, many anglers will make a 
figure 8 at boat side, which some- 
times serves to convince a reluctant 
fish to smash the artificial. 

Rounding out Williams' arsenal 
is 18/80 Power Pro line, 130-pound 
test fluorocarbon leader, a heavy 
duty baitcasting reel, and a Batson 
Rainshadow RX7 rod designed and 
given to Joe by Roanoke's Duane 
Richards. Richards said he designed 
it with fly rod guides to limit the rod 
tip's weight, and spiral wrapped the 
guides to make the rod stable when 
an angler fights big fish. 
* * * * 

On an outing with Williams to the 
lower New, I experienced just how 
intoxicating muskie fishing can be. 
The biologist motored his craft to a 
calm backwater and began methodi- 
cally chunking a jumbo jerkbait to- 
ward the shoreline. An hour or so 
after the excursion began, a muskie 

erupted on the bait, sending spumes 
everywhere. After a lively battle, Joe 
brought the fish to the boat where I 
netted the wildly thrashing creature. 
I received a charge from just cor- 
ralling that fish, some 40 inches long! 
I can only imagine what madness, 
what obsessive streak to go after this 
gamefish, might overtake em angler 
who regularly catches muskies. D 

Bruce Ingrain has authored many guide books, 
most recenth/ Fly and Spin Fisliing for River 
Smallmoutlis ($19.25). Contact him at 
heJngrainCJ' for more information. 

inia's Eirs 

Wintergreen residents 

choose proactive 

measures to coexist 

with black bears. 

by Jaime L. Sajecki 

Wintergreen Resort, a resi- 
dential and vacation 
community nestled 
against the Blue Ridge Parkway in 
Nelson County, is a place where it is 
sometimes hard to tell where the for- 
est ends and the real estate begins, es- 
pecially if you are a bear. Prompted 
by a series of break-ins by bears to re- 
sort homes in 2007 and the removal 
or euthanasia of nine bears over two 
years, Wintergreen residents decided 
to take action to make theirs a com- 
munity where both people and bears 
could coexist. 

Wintergreen Property Owners 
Association staff and Wintergreen 

police began cooperating with De- 
partment (DGIF) biologists and law 
enforcement officers on measures to 
curtail the bear-related problems oc- 
curring at the resort. Public refuse fa- 
cilities were secured and homeown- 
ers were advised on managing trash 
and bird feeders. And to increase 
bear awareness by residents and visi- 
tors, the Wintergreen Nature Foun- 
dation hosted a seminar given by 
DGIF on black bears, with focus on 
preventing further negative interac- 

Fueled by a strong desire to pre- 
vent future conflicts, Wintergreen 
residents Sarah and Robert Scott 
founded the Wintergreen Bear Smart 
program. After reading about the 
Bear Smart effort in British Columbia 
in the book Living with Bears: A Practi- 
cal Guide to Bear Country by Linda 
Masterson, the Scotts decided to start 
their own Bear Smart community. 

The Wintergreen Bear Smart pro- 
gram is governed by a seven-person 

©Bill Lea 

council, made up of full-time resi- 
dents. The council assessed the con- 
ditions that were contributing to the 
habituation of bears to people such as 
bird feeding and unsecured garbage. 
Another important task was to gain 
the cooperation of other Wintergreen 
community organizations to support 
the new Bear Smart program. 

The success that the Bear Smart 
program has experienced can be seen 
in the numbers. Since 2007, the num- 
ber of bear incidents has dropped by 
over 80%, and those resulting in 
damage to homes or property have 
decreased by over 90%. In 2009, a few 
bears were seen and at least one win- 
dow screen was damaged, but ha- 
rassment by Wintergreen police 
proved effective. No traps were set 
and no bears were euthanized. 

So, how did this community begin 
their road to successful and harmo- 
nious coexistence of humans and 
bears? To begin the process, con- 
cerned Wintergreen residents met 

oyfim unity 

with the local DGIF district wildlife 
biologist to discuss the Bear Smart 
program. Then, by following Bear 
Smart guidelines, they established the 
Bear Smart Council and met with 
each of the various boards at Winter- 
green to explain the program and so- 
licit cooperation. From these meet- 
ings, the council received full commit- 
ment from the various boards, includ- 
ing the Wintergreen Property Owners 
Association Board, which had already 
begun to minimize conflicts at trash 
disposal sites. The next step focvised 
on media outreach and programs for 
local groups to promote community- 
wide efforts. 

Another major step occurred when 
the property owners association 
passed resolutions requiring home- 
owners to stop feeding birds between 
April 1 and December 1 and banned 
outside garbage cans unless they 
were bear-proof. The council request- 
ed that the association purchase bear- 
proof containers for public-use areas, 
in addition to the large compactors al- 
ready on-site. 

Other proactive measures taken by 
the Wintergreen community included 
record-keeping by Wintergreen police 
on bear incidents and sightings, and 
immediate response by the police cie- 
partment to all bear incidents. The 
Wintergreen Property Owners Asso- 
ciation agreed to pay for and put up 
signs, as well as post information on 
their Web site concerning bear activity 
in the area. Wintergreen Partners, Inc. 
provided garbage management and 
bear literature to arriving resort 
guests. They also show the Depart- 
ment's DVD, Living with Black Bears in 
Virginia, on the in-house TV. In addi- 
tion to no longer selling bird food 
from April to December, the Winter- 
green Nature Foundation published a 
special brochure on black bears that 
includes precautions when encoun- 

tering bears in the wild and around 
homes. The foundation also has the 
black bears DVD available for view- 
ing by visitors. 

When asked to provide advice for 
communities that might want to start 
a Bear Smart program of their own, 
the Scotts offer the following tips: 

• It must be a citizens' effort to en- 
gage the various entities who have 
a stake in managing the bear prob- 
lem in the community. 

• The education of community 
members regarding the habitua- 
tion of bears is essential. 

• It is important to not assign blame 
for the problem to various people 
or agencies and, rather, just deal 
with the facts on what is happen- 
ing and what would solve the 

Also, an assessment of community 
conditions (found at http: / /www. 
bear smart, com /becoming-bear- 
smart /community /bear-hazard- 
assessments) was reported along 
with recommendations to each com- 
munity entity. 

What does the future hold for 
human-bear relationships on this 
11,000-acre community on the eastern 
slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains? 
The Bear Smart Council pledges to 
continue to educate the community 
regarding program progress and 
bring awareness to continuing prob- 
lems. The Wintergreen Property 
Owners Association will continue to 
send out letters to residents yearly re- 
minding them of their responsibili- 
ties, enforce bird feeding and trash 
regulations, and keep DGIF up-to- 
date on non-compliance or illegal 
feeding activities. The Department 
will continue to support this program 
and community by providing educa- 
tion and enforcement as needed. 

The Bear Smart Council, resi- 
dents, and all Wintergreen entities 
understand that the Bear Smart pro- 
gram will be an ongoing effort with 
continuing challenges due to the 
constant influx of new residents and 
guests. However, they feel that the 
reward — being able to live in a com- 
munity surrounded by the beauty of 
the natural world and associated 
wildlife, with little to no conflict — is 
worth the challenge. 

All residents of Virginia living in 
bear country can benefit from follow- 
ing a few simple guideliiies to reduce 
bear attractants around their homes. 
View tips and guidelines by watch- 
ing the video. Living with Black Bears 
in Virginia, on the DGIF Web site 
bear/). To learn about becoming a 
Bear Smart Community, first contact 
this Department for site-specific as- 
sistance and recommendations, and 
visit the Get Bear Smart Society Web 
site: D 

Jaime Sajecki is the bear biologist for tlic Depart- 
ment of Game and Inland Fisheries. 



Help us Keep 
our Bears Wild 



I llVi&l 1 1 J 

_1 IMJ 


2010 Outdoor 
Calendar of Events 

Unless otherwise noted, for current 
information and registration on 
workshops go to the "Upcoming 
Events" page on our Web site at or call 804- 

February 12-15: 2010 Great Backyard 
Bird Count. For more information: / gbbc or / gbbc. 

February 13: Grouse season closes. 

February 25, 27, March 4, 6, 9: 

Photographing Winters Wonders with 
Lynda Richardson at Lewis Ginter 
Botanical Garden, Richmond. Go to or call (804) 
262-9887, x322. 

February 26-28: Western Virghiia 
Sport Show, Augusta Expoland, Fish- 
ersville. For more information: 

February 27: Rabbit season closes. 

April 3: Trout Heritage Day. 

April 3: Kids Fishing Heritage Day, 
Graves Mountain Lodge. Starts 9:00 
a.m. For more information call 

April 3: Youth Spring Turkey Hunt 
Day. For ages 15 and younger. 

April 10: Spring turkey season 

April 17-18: Virginia Fly Fishing Festi- 
val, Waynesboro; wwrw.vaflyfishing 

April 15, 17, 22, 24, 27: An Introduc- 
tion to Flower Photography with Lynda 
Richardson at Lewis Ginter Botanical 
Garden. Call (804) 262-9887, x322. 
or go to □ 


by Beth Hester 

Kayak Fishing: 
Tlte Complete Guide 

by Cory Routh 


No Nonsense Fishing Guides 

w w w. ru thlessfishing . com 


"I find kayak fishing more than appealing 
for many reasons. From conservation, to 
affordability, to portability, kayak fislung 
has ma)ni advantages. " 

- Cory Routh 

In the month of February, it often 
seems as if spring will never come. 
Yet hidden beneath the icy cold, signs 
of burgeoning life are everywhere. 
This is a great time for the angler to 
inventory gear, replace or repair es- 
sential equipment, and dream about 
new fishing experiences and destina- 
tions. So if you've never contemplat- 
ed kayak fishing, Cory Routh's fully 
illustrated guide to kayak fishing will 
have you itching to get out on the 
water and close to the action. 

Routh is not only an author, he is 
a seasoned fishing guide with many 
years of kayak angling experience in 
both salt and fresh waters. He also 
happens to have a degree in marine 
biology. There is a wealth of informa- 
tion in this entertaining how-to vol- 
ume, and Routh's encouraging, con- 
genial voice flows across every page. 
He traverses every aspect of kayak 
fishing: conservation, safety, rigging, 
paddling and maneuvering, car top- 
puig, and trip planning. 

Routh shares some of his favorite 
fishing locations and includes an in- 
valuable section of resources helpful 
to both veteran and novice kayak an- 
glers. He covers techniques for fight- 
ing and landing fish from a kayak, 
and using drift to best advantage by 
employing drag anchors and drift 
chutes. He illustrates how to avoid 
the dreaded "sleigh ride effect" and 
shows how to stay put in shallow wa- 
ters via a strategically placed stake- 
out pole. 

Virginia is blessed with countless 
venues that are kayak fishing friend- 
ly. Seated close to the surface of the 
water in a well-rigged kayak, waiting 
patiently for a strike, gives anglers a 
fresh perspective on fishing ... one 
well worth considering come spring. 

Biologists Identify Over 200 

Ecologically Healthy 

Virginia Streams 

by Paula Neely 

Surprisingly, at a time when there is 
so much bad news about the environ- 
ment, biologists have discovered 
more than 200 ecologically healthy 
streams and creeks throughout Vir- 
ginia, including about 30 streams that 
are exceptionally healthy, and more 
are yet to be identified. 

According to Greg Garman, di- 
rector of the Center for Environmen- 
tal Studies at Virginia Common- 
wealth University, an unexpectedly 
high number of Virginia's stream and 
river segments assessed since 2004 — 
up to 22 percent in some water- 
sheds — are ecologically and biologi- 
cally robust. "These healthy streams 
represent a sigmficant natural legacy 
for the commonwealth and should 
be conserved using every tool at our 
disposal," he said. 



Identifying healthy waters is part 
of Virginia's new Healthy Waters ini- 
tiative to raise awareness about the 
need to protect the ecological integri- 
ty and diversity of living resources in 
streams and creeks before they be- 
come impaired. The initiative is man- 
aged by the Center for Environ- 
mental Studies at Virginia Com- 
monwealth University and the Vir- 
ginia Department of Conservation 
and Recreation, in coordination with 
the Virginia Department of Environ- 
mental Quality, the Virginia Depart- 
ment of Game and Inland Fisheries 
(DGIF), and the Virginia Coastal 
Zone Management Program. 

Using data that includes infor- 
mation about fish communities, 
aquatic insects, in-stream habitat, 
and vegetation along stream banks in 
the riparian zones, streams are com- 
pared to virtual reference streams 
and ranked by the Interactive Stream 
Assessment Resource (INSTAR). De- 
veloped by the Center for Environ- 
mental Studies, INSTAR is a free, in- 
teractive online stream database 
available to the public. 

Healthy Virginia streams include 
sections of well-known natural treas- 
ures such as: 

• The Clinch River, with more 
species of endangered and rare 
freshwater mussels than any- 
where else in the world; 

• The Roanoke drainage, known 
for the most distinctive freshwa- 
ter fish communities on the Al- 
tantic Slope of the United States; 

• Dragon Run, one of the most 
pristine streams in the Chesa- 
peake area. 

Healthy sections of other lesser 
known streams have also been iden- 
tified in the eastern half of the state, 
where most of the assessments have 
been conducted so far. Garman said 
streams in Virginia will continue to 
be assessed and added to the data- 
base as resources become available. 

Brian Roosa, who is the aquatic 
wildlife diversity biologist for the 
DGIF, calls INSTAR "... a great tool, 
and one that's getting more robust all 
the time." He estimates that an addi- 
tional 10,000 records are coming into 
the database soon, all of which help 
managers prioritize focal areas for 
fisheries management work. "IN- 
STAR serves as an excellent backdrop 
to species range maps and helps you 
better pinpoint where resources 
could be applied," he adds. 

According to Rick Hill, DCR 
planning and policy manager, by 
using stream assessments to priori- 
tize protection efforts where they will 
do the most good and integrating 
protection into land-use decision- 
making and voluntary conservation 
efforts, Virginians can reduce the 
number of streams that will become 
degracied and avoid costly rehabilita- 
tion efforts. 

Hill said protecting healthy 
streams requires a holisHc approach 
that addresses in-stream habitat, 
stormwater runoff, invasive species, 
and natural stream flow. 




f, £ 









£ 5 






The U. S. Environmental Pro- 
tection Agency has also established a 
national Healthy Watersheds pro- 
gram and has encourageci and fvmd- 
ed some of Virginia's pilot efforts. D 

For More Information: 

To find healthy streams in Virginia: 
http:/ / 



Exceptionally Healthy 
Virginia Streams 

Faucjuier County: Mill Run 
Fredericksburg: Claiborne Run 
Hanover and Henrico counties: 

Chickahominy River 
King and Queen County: 

Dragon Run and Cheney 

Bridge Swamp Tributary 
Loudoun County: Little River 

and Bull Run 
Madison County: Popham Run 
Prince William County: 

South Fork Quantico Creek 
Rappahannock County: 

Hazel River 
Richmond County: Totoskey 

Creek and North Fork 

Richardson Creek 
Stafford County: White Oak Run 
Suffolk County: Jones Swamp 

Sussex County: Stony Creek 

and Higgens Creek 

Lifetime Licenses 

Open the door to a lifetime of 

enjoyment in tlie great outdoors 

of Virginia witli a lifetime freshwater 

fishing, hunting or trout license! 

It's an investment that keeps on giving. 

For more information visit: 


orcalM- (866) 721-6911 

Report Wildlili^ Violations 



I J /hen hunting season is over, a 
rlr good retriever has to stay busy. 
I have noticed that my collar does not 
fit as well as it used to before the holi- 
days and I have also noticed you hu- 
mans seem to do a little expanding 
around the middle as well. Since 
charity begins at home, I have taken it 
upon myself to be helpful to those in 
need by acting as a personal trainer 
for some of the delivery people in my 
neighborhood. The lady who carries 
a bag with letters in it and the man 
who drives a brown truck have put 
on more than a few pounds, I see. It is 
common knowledge, even among 
dogs, that staying active keeps one 
happier and more alert and I figured 
the least I could do was to get one of 
them moving a little faster each day 
to enhance their heart rate and make 
their life better. 

What might not be common 
knowledge is that I am greatly at- 
tracted to the female human and 
have been known on occasion to be 
somewhat forward in my display of 
affection. I'll just come out with it: If 
you are a female and we have never 
met, be prepared! I sometimes forgo 

an introduction, and may — with no 
warning — ^jump up and give you a 
big lick in the face. For some reason, 
this puts a few people off. I guess if 
you see a 90-pound black dog com- 
ing at you full bore, you may have 
some concerns about my intentions. 
For the record, I have never bitten 
anyone, but I can see that when you 
have a four-legged "Locomotive of 
Love" bearing down on you, it can be 
a little uiTuerving. 

But back to helping others. Al- 
ways trying to use my traits in a posi- 
tive fashion, I have developed a pro- 
gram that may help these hard-work- 
ing people shed some unwanted ex- 
cess. I thought I would try it out on 
the lady with the bag of letters first. 

When she shows up around 9:30 
each morning I hide in one of the 
bushes around our house and watch 
her come down the street. Before we 
started our program, she walked at 
her normal, slow, methodical pace. 
When she got to the house, I would 
let her get all the mail through the 
door, then pop up and give her a 
quick, friendly WOOF! and then 
rush out to meet her — ^just to show 

my appreciation for her hard work. 
This always seemed to put her in run- 
ning mode and, for a big woman, she 
can move pretty well, even with that 
bag she carries acting like a drag 
parachute on a fuel dragster. 

Since she has started ?ni/ program, 
I see her measuring the distance from 
the street to the house and back to the 
street again. (It is good to see some- 
one taking their exercise seriously.) 
Then she sprints like a Virginia Tech 
fullback to the front door, deposits the 
mail in the mail slot, and hoofs it with 
a strong arm pumping motion back 
to the street. Sometimes, when I think 
she is not giving it her best, all I have 
to do is just step out from behind one 
of the bushes and she kicks it into an- 
other gear. It's a good 50 yards from 
the house to the street and I haven't 
been fast enough to kiss her yet. 

This has been going on for about a 
month now, and we can both see an 
improvement in her conditioning. 
She has cut about 2 seconds off her 
delivery time and 2 inches off her 
waistline. However, I believe she 
may have developed some kind of 
nervous facial tick. We are going to 
have to work on that. 

The point of all this is to remember 
that both ifoii and your dog need year- 
round exercise. Just limit it to the 
cooler times of the day for your dog, 
as the weather starts to warm. 

Keep a leg up, 

Luke is a black Labrador retriever who spends 
his spare time hunting up good stories icith 
best friend Clarke C. Jones. You can contact 
Luke and Clarke at 

DGIF members of the board, 
management staff, and 
hatchery personnel gathered 
along with Bath County lead- 
ers, state officials, and other 
supporters to celebrate com- 
pletion of the renovated fish 
hatchery at Coursey Springs 
in December. 




by Ken and Maria Perrotte 

Fried Yellow Perch 

rellow perch, often called "ring perch" in Virginia, are 
closely related to the walleye— famous as fabulous table 
fare in the northern U.S. and Canada. Yellow perch are com- 
mon in the northern states, where ice fishermen often catch 
them by the bucketloads in winter, but they can also be caught 
in many tidal Virginia waters or in some deeper lakes, such as 
Moomaw. While not tasting exactly the same as walleye, yel- 
low perch have their own spectacular flavor, a taste many de- 
scribe as sweet. 

Early March is a good time to catch yellow perch, espe- 
cially in tidal waters, as they prepare for spawning. Check 
with your regional fisheries biologists for hotspots in your 

Yellow perch aren't very big; keepers typically range be- 
tween 8 and 11 inches. They're not slab-sided like crappie, but 
some people fillet them nevertheless. For us, though, they're 
such a taste treat that we clean them whole instead of risking 
meat to filleting. 

To clean them whole, remove the head, cutting vertically 
dovmward vwth a slight angle back. Stop the cut before going 
all the way through and pull the head forward. This usually re- 
moves the head and most of the viscera. Next, use a small, 
sharp fillet knife to make a single slice through the bottom of 
the fish toward the tail. Make a shallow slice along the top on 
each side of the long dorsal fin, then peel the skin off on both 
sides. The dorsal fin and many back bones are removed simply 
by grasping the dorsal fin at the rear and pulling it up and for- 

You can remove the rib bones or not as you choose. The 
easiest way to remove them is to make a cut just behind the 
ventral fin and slice forward, following the backbone. Finally, 
use your fingernail or a brush to clean along the backbone, 
rinse, and pat dry. You're ready to cook. Note that we leave the 
tail on, breaded and fried with the fish. It's an edible snack 
that crunches like a thick potato chip— a fish and chip, all in 

Here's a "keep it simple" treat that creates a satisfying late 
winter supper, the big payoff after a day on the water. 


* 10-12 yellow perch, cleaned whole (serves 2 or 3, 
depending on size offish) 

* One egg (or equivalent egg substitute) 

* y4 cup milk 

* About 2 cups canola or other light cooking oil (a little 
peanut oil added to the mix adds a unique flavor and a 
healthier, hotter frying blend) or enough oil to fill frying 
pan so that fish are mostly immersed. 


* Your favorite fish breading (Note, the delicate sweetness of 
yellow perch can be overpowered by many of the "Cajun" 
spicy breadings or those with too much lemon-pepper. One 
breading that accents the flavor of the fish is Progresso's 
Italian-style Bread Crumbs. House of Autry's basic breading 
also works well.) 

* A pinch of pepper 


While the oil heats until it is almost smoking in an electric 
skillet or a stovetop frying pan, whisk together the egg and 
milk in a wide, shallow bowl. Drop in the fish and ensure they 
are well coated. Add your breading and pepper to a small, 
thick paper bag. Drop the fish into the breading, 4 to 6 at a 
time, and shake vigorously— ensuring they are well covered. 
Remove and add to the oil. 

Use tongs to turn the fish over once they begin turning 
golden brown. It only takes a couple of minutes of cooking on 
each side. Do not overcook! Remove to a plate and allow fish 
to drain excess oil on paper towels. 

The perch, when properly cooked, easily separates from 
the backbone into thick, flavorful pieces. Check the portions 
being given to any small children to verify that all bones have 
been removed. 


* Creamy coleslaw. Use a sharp French knife to slice and then 
chop fresh cabbage. Some coarse grated carrots and broccoli 
also may be added. Add commercial slaw dressing (we use 
Marzetti), some coarse ground black pepper, and a dash of 
cider vinegar. The slaw mix keeps well for a few days in the 

* Sliced tomatoes (big, ripe and flavorful). This is where 
freezing some fish to fry once Hanover tomatoes hit the 
vegetable stands can pay off in side dish appeal. 

* Garnish with a slice or two of fresh lemon slices. D 

A full-bodied lager or a nice German-style pilsner is hard 
to beat with fried yellow perch. 

The Department's "Panfish Preparation and Filleting" 
DVD, which includes "Squirrel Skinning, Quick and 
Easy" is available for $8.00. Order online at www.Hunt or send check payable to "Treasurer of Vir- 
ginia," to DGIF Catalog, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 


by Lynda Richardson 

Hiding in Plain Sight 

I J / hen looking for something to 
WW photograph you can always 
count on nature to provide interesting 
themes. Take camouflage, for instance. 
Animals use every advantage they can 
to protect or hide themselves from 
predators or prey and the simple 
premise of camouflage, or hiding in 
plain sight, has made for some very in- 
teresting and creative adaptations. 

Insects are some of my favorite 
camoviflage experts. A walking stick, 
looking like a stick with twiggy legs, 
simply has to move slowly, sway gen- 
tly in the breeze, or hold still on a limb 
to blend into its surroundings. Moths, 
mottled the pattern and color of bark, 
find safety perched on the side of a 
similarly marked tree. Various spi- 
ders, brightly colored to match flow- 
ers, hide incognito amid the petals 
ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. 
Some insects have even developed ex- 
tremely elaborate camouflage mim- 
icking flowers, leaves, and even the 
eyes of larger creatures. 

When you start looking around 
you will be amazed by how many 
creatures use the camouflage trick. A 
spring peeper clinging tightly to a cat- 
tail could easily be missed and you 
would have a hard time locating a 
green snake in a tangle of cat briar. 
Drab field or song sparrows easily 
fade into the undergrowth as they 
scratch for food, and a sleepy screech 
owl is a rare find perched for a nap on 
the side of a tree. 

All of the animals I've been talking 
about so far are small, so it seems un- 
derstandable that they can hide easily. 
But what about something large like a 
black bear or a white-tailed deer? 
Camouflage works for the big guys as 
well. I have seen what I thought was a 
rock suddenly turn into a very real 
black bear. (Boy, was that a surprise!) 
Even deer, with their earthy colored 

coats, can blend perfectly into a sur- 
rounding woodland or field. 

So if you are looking for a differ- 
ent photographic challenge, I would 
suggest that you try to photograph 
animals going about their daily lives 
using camouflage. Not only will it be 
fun to look for subjects, it will also be 
interesting to see if you can photo- 
graph them and keep them hidden in 
plain sight! Enjoy! D 

You are invited to submit one to five of your 
best photographs to "Image of the Month," Vir- 
ginia Wildhfe Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, 4010 
West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. 
Send original shdes, super high-quah'ty prints, 
or high-res jpeg, tiif, or raw files on a disk and 
include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or 
other shipping method for return. Also, please 
include any pertinent information regarding 
how and where you captured the image and 
what camera and settings you used, along with 
your phone number. We look forward to seeing 
and sharing your work with our readers. 

Sometimes a subject will be hiding in plain sight. This large buck was totally hidden before 
his set of large antiers gave him away; otherwise, you would never hove known he was there. 


Congratulations to Scott M. Baugher of Elkton for his great illustration of camouflage! Scott 
spied this ruffed grouse (can you see it?) in the George Washington Notional Forest near 
Elkton. Scott used a Minolta Maxxum 7000, 35mm, SLR, film camera, 210mm zoom lens 
with macro, ISO 400, 1/1 25th, f4. 0. Way to spot them, Scott! 



■"w"^ ^T-^ir ▲ 

V Outdoor Ca\i 


Limited Edition 
Virginia Wildlife 
Collector's Knife 

Our 2009 Collector's knife has once again been customized by Buck Knives 
and features a wild turkey in full strut. The elegant, solid cherry box features a 
forest scene. Knives and boxes, made in USA. 


$85.00 each (plus $7.25 S&H) 


Virginia Wildlife 

Collector's Knife 

Produced by Buck Knives, this knife features a red-tailed hawk engraving, 
augmented by a natural woodgrain handle and gold lettering. A distinctive, 
solid cherry box features birds of prey. 

Item # VW-408 $90.00 each (plus $7.25 S&H) 


and Turtles 

From mountains to the coast, our plush collectibles will remind you of your 
favorite Virginia habitat. (Sizes range from 5" to 9" long) 


White-tailed Fawn 

$9.95 each 
$9.95 each 

Habitat at Home 

Check out this 2009 DVD that features 
several types of home habitat gardens and 
interviews with the homeowners who 
created them. 


$12.00 each 

To Order visit the Department's Web site at: or call (804) 367-2569. 

Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. 


A dog-gone 
good deal! 

Order Online 

www. HuntFish VA . com 

With just the click of a mouse 
you can order 12 months of 
Virginia Wildlife magazine on- 
line using your VISA or Master- 
Card, and have it delivered to 
your home for just $12.95 a 
year. That's a 73% savings off 
the cover price. While you're 
there, don't forget to check 
out the Virginia Wildlife Out- 
door Catalog for that unique 
and special gift. 

Magazine subscription-related calls onlv 1-800-710-9369 

Twelve issues for just $ 1 2.95 ! 

AU other calls to (804) 367- 1 000 

Visit our Web site at 

Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program 

Tax Checkoff 


Celebrate the 28th anniversary of Vir- 
ginia's Nongame Wildlife Program 
by helping to support essential research 
and management of Virginia's native 
birds, fish, and other nongame animals. 

If you are due a tax refund from the 
Commonwealth of Virginia, you can con- 
tribute to the Virginia Nongame Wildlife 
Program by simply marking the appropri- 
ate place on this year's tax checkoff, on the 
Virginia state income tax form. 

If you would like to make a cash dona- 
tion directly to the Virginia Nongame 
Wildlife Program using a VISA or Master- 
Card, you can visit the Department's Web 
site or mail a check made out to Virginia 
Nongame Program and mail it to Virginia 
Nongame Program, 4010 W. Broad St., 
Richmond, VA 23230-1 104.